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Hard Border will not be avoided by good intentions alone, say Varadkar and May

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

A hard Border in Ireland will not be avoided with simply good intentions, both Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Theresa May have warned.

With just a week left to whip up enough support to wrangle her Brexit deal through parliament against all the odds, Mrs May warned that avoiding a post-Brexit hard Border in Ireland won't happen "simply because people sit around and say 'well, we won't have a Border'".

She made the remarks while defending the so-called backstop which has proved the key stumbling block to securing agreement in the House of Commons on the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU.

Her sentiment was welcomed by the Irish Government, with Mr Varadkar saying he hoped she would be listened to.

"We need more than good intent and warm words. We need a treaty that can give effect to the practical considerations that are necessary to avoid a hard Border," he told reporters yesterday while on a visit to Irish troops in Mali.

"That's why we put so much work into that agreement over the past 18 months. Whether people wish to understand it or not, they need to accept that voting against the agreement they are threatening that possibility."

Pressed on what would happen in the event of the deal falling in Westminster and what planning was needed to avoid a hard Border, Mr Varadkar said they would need to go back to the table.

"We are very much of the view that we will need to have an agreement to avoid a hard Border between Northern Ireland and Ireland - we have that agreement," he said.

"We're now asking for it to be ratified by the European Parliament and by Westminster. It's been ratified by our Dáil already and [in the absence of the Withdrawal Agreement] it becomes very difficult then to avoid a hard Border, so we will have to go back to the table at that point."

Speaking on the BBC yesterday, Mrs May reiterated that the UK is committed to avoiding a hard Border on the island of Ireland.

"First of all, we're very clear that we will do everything, whatever the circumstances, everything in our power not to have a hard Border between Northern Ireland and Ireland," she said.

"You say 'well it won't happen'. Actually no border doesn't happen simply because people sit around and say 'well, we won't have a border'."

She said it's "about more than that. It's about businesses knowing what they do. So if you're in a situation where you're operating different tariffs, how do businesses deal with that in terms of customs that is going across that border?

"So actually, as ever, this isn't just about aspiration. It's about practicality. And that's the point.

"It's about making sure that we can guarantee that there will be no hard Border - that's important to us.

"Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, we owe it to the people of Northern Ireland," she added.

Ahead of the crunch vote in Westminster, Mr Varadkar said he did not believe Ireland should try to directly win support for the deal in the UK, warning this could backfire.

In a bid to help the deal through, Ireland was working with the EU on "guarantees, assurances and explanations" to assuage concerns on the backstop. Asked if he was disappointed in the quality of debate in the deal in Westminster, Mr Varadkar said: "I don't think it would be proper for me to be critical of another parliament, given the kind of things that happen in our own parliament from time to time."

Irish Independent